Q. I read that alcohol can increase your risk of mouth cancer. I use an alcohol-based mouthwash at least twice a day and I wonder if this could increase my risk?

A. There is no conclusive evidence of the possibility that alcohol-based mouthwash could be linked to mouth cancers.  But regularly drinking spirits may increase your risk, as will smoking. Many people may not realise that their morning breath freshener contains alcohol or that alcohol-free products are available. The best way to an all day fresh breath is not using mouthwash but having healthy teeth and gums. You will achieve this from flossing and thoroughly brushing your teeth with good toothpaste at least twice as day, eating a balanced diet with lots of vegetables and fruit, and also seeing a dentist regularly for check-ups.

Without good oral hygiene, mouth odour occurs as the gingival pockets between the root and the gum harbour bacteria. If you are prone to getting a coated tongue, especially on waking up in the morning, you should also brush your tongue gently with a soft brush. If you have periodontal (gum) disease, which tends to produce mouth odour, don’t mask the odour with mouthwash, but see a dentist for treatment. Left untreated, gums will recede and teeth will loosen. Mouthwash doesn’t have a lasting effect on oral hygiene, as it only gives temporary reprieve from mouth odour. When you use a mouthwash choose an alcohol free product.